First week back at work after the Christmas break is always a difficult one. The early mornings, the structure, the not being able to sit in your pants and eat chocolate, cold meats and cheese while watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one sitting. It’s all a little hard to bear.
Which is why Friday lunchtime required a little more than half a pot of M&S chicken and lentil soup and a banana. Heading out with friend and part-time colleague James, we were a bit stuck for where to go for lunch. We ambled down into Soho dismissing a quickie in Itsu and a French foray at Patisserie Val. We toyed with Mildred’s, a super cute little cafe on Lexington Street, but at over a tenner a dish this seemed a bit extravagant for lunchtime bite in January.
We carried on walking and James suggested we hook a right onto Beak street where there was a newish opening that might suit our needs. The Grill Shack. Great shout.
I’d heard of these guys purely because I’d been handed a mini bacon roll and flyer by their staff outside of Oxford Circus tube one morning. This was back in November and, I assume, when they’d just opened. Great tactic as I was hardly going to forget a free bacon sandwich. The daily commute is that bad that you always remember anything that remotely improves it and a free bacon sandwich is pretty much the holy grail of improvement! So when James suggested we high five ourselves for a first week well done by grill shacking it up I excitedly agreed.
Heading in to the restaurant we were welcomed by a host at the door who quickly showed us to a table. Most of the tables looked like they’d be suited to large-ish groups (up to about 6 people) but either way all the tables are pretty cosily close so you could certainly pull a couple together to accommodate. There are wooden benches that run around almost the entire outside of the room and a couple of sharing tables in the middle much like you get in Wagamamas.
We were tucked right in the corner and our host asked us if we’d been before – I call him a host because he didn’t serve us in fact he didn’t serve anyone because the place is a kind of ‘help yourself’ restaurant. We were told once we’d made our choices we could head up to the counter and order ‘Nandos’ style or we could head over to the customer till and put the orders in ourselves. A little lazy of the staff you could say? But weirdly I liked it – weirdly because I worked as a waitress once upon a time and using the tills was not exciting in the slightest however as a customer it was the utmost fun. Apart from when I got our table number wrong and James had to go to the counter to ask for no beetroot in his salad, so it ended up being sort of long winded but fun in theory. You can imagine mistakes like this happen all the time, we as customers aren’t always the brightest bunch and the annoyingly you can’t even be mad at the waiter because it’s only you who’s messed up your order. On top of the do-it-yourself ordering you can help yourselves to drinks and sauces which are set up at stations near the counter.
Anyway we both ordered the Halloumi Salad – I know that seemed a bit ridiculous, ordering a vegetarian option at a ‘Grill Shack’. The obvious choice is one of their grilled half-chickens, which you can see cooking through the open kitchen hatch, but as it’s January we were both on a bit of a healthy vibe and I could probably say I enjoy eating halloumi as much as I do any piece of grilled meat so it was a win, win situation for me and my post Christmas paunch.
The salad came in no time at all and along with the halloumi we were treated to quinoa, beetroot (not for James), tomatoes, chilli, spring onions and red peppers. I was so, so, so impressed with how tasty this little combo was. As soon as I’d ordered I was beginning to regret my strong willed choice. As the burgers started to float past I thought perhaps I’d made a huge error in ordering something so healthy but once I began packing the first mouthful onto my fork I knew I’d made the right decision. Having to stop talking out of fear of drooling probably means you’ve made the right choice. And yes I did just admit to drooling over a salad.
What really impressed me about the salad was that usually you’d expect the token veggie meal on the menu at a meaty restaurant to be O.K, nothing special, a bit of a ‘only cause we have to have it as an option’ dish but it completely held it’s own among the meatier meals and the fact that this was so good just makes me think that their ‘known for’ menu options are going to be the absolute bollocks! So as soon as I’ve given in to the inevitable burger and pizza diet my body’s used to I will be heading back there to try out the BBQ half chicken!
Fully satisfied and already paid up (another great point of ordering yourself – no waiting around for the bill) we were able to leave as and when but being pressed for time we didn’t hang around too long. Also the wooden benches aren’t exactly the most comfortable seating. It may be that I have an incredibly bony bum, (something I’ve been told repeatedly), but I ended up sitting on scarf to allow for a bit more comfort. This may be a deliberate idea of the owners as it means that you don’t really have groups hanging around for ages after they’ve all ordered and paid. Paying in advance probably means you won’t add to your bill after you’ve ordered your main meal so this too indicates that they don’t want people whiling away the hours which is fine by me!
The Grill Shack gets a big thumbs up from me even more so as I’ve just realised the amount of freebies they give away on their twitter feed! Working in the area it’s great to know the community approach they have – free breakfast for your office sounds like an absolute winner and sure to get you big brownie points with any boss…especially with buttermilk, apple pancakes on the menu! Did somebody say retweet??